By Len Suzio
On September 11, I testified against the exorbitant electric rate increase imposed on Eversource customers. I pointed out that not only was the rate increase itself outrageous, but that Connecticut consumers are already paying the highest electricity rates in the continental United States! The real question is not just why the July big rate increase, but why are Connecticut electricity consumers being grossly overcharged with the highest electricity rates outside Hawai’i and Alaska?
Just how bad are Connecticut families being overcharged for their use of electricity? The United States Energy Information Administration published a report in July, “Short-Term Energy Outlook” in which it predicts, “the U.S. retail electricity price for the residential sector will average 13.1 cents per kWh in 2020, which is 1.2% higher than the average retail price in 2019.” According to Eversource the retail price charged to Connecticut electricity consumers with the July 2020 increase is 23.8 cents per kWh.
So we in Connecticut pay 23.8 cents per kWh while the rest of the country pays on average only 13.1 cents per kWh.
Think about that fact — this means Connecticut consumers pay a whopping 82% more for their electricity than the average consumer in the US!
Political apologists for Connecticut’s outrageous electricity costs argue that Connecticut lacks natural resources and transportation costs and limited gas pipeline capacity cause higher electric rates in Connecticut. But . . .
Compare Eversource’s price of 23.8 cents per kWh to the 12.4 cents per kWh charged by the Wallingford Electric Division. You read that right — the same electricity you purchase from Eversource costs almost 50% less if you purchased from Wallingford Electric!
My July electricity bill shows I paid $238 for 1024 kWh. At the same time, my daughter who lives in Wallingford paid only $125 for 1018 kWh. We consumed almost exactly the same amount of electricity, but I paid a whopping premium of $113 for my electricity.
Here we are in Meriden, and we are forced to pay almost double the price for the same electricity our next-door neighbors in Wallingford pay for the same amount of electricity!
So much for the standard arguments put forward to “explain” Connecticut’s outrageous electricity costs.
So, what is going on here?
Here are some interesting facts and questions.
1. On July 29, 2020, the Vice President of External Affairs and Corporate Communications for ISO New England testified in a public hearing, “Renewable Electricity: Potential Economic Effects of Renewable Electricity Commitments.” She commented, “In 2019, wholesale electricity, transmission, and ISO costs, were less than eight cents per kilowatt-hour, while four of the six New England states had retail rates over 20 cents/kWh.” At the beginning of 2019 Eversource was charging almost 23 cents per kWh. Why is Eversource charging almost triple the wholesale cost of electricity?
2. During 2018, when I uncovered and exposed the overcharges on the Eversource electricity bills, I learned that the utility had a sloppy billing system with nothing in place to protect consumers from errors and overcharges. During the Aug. 24, 2020 PURA hearing, Eversource executives admitted the company was overcharging customers $124 million for electricity generated by the Millstone nuclear plant. Why aren’t consumers protected against these “errors”? When will these overcharges be refunded to consumers?
3. The Connecticut Legislature has adopted public policy designed to encourage conservation of electricity by consumers. But Eversource blamed reduced electricity consumption during the first half of 2020 as the reason why the utility increased its transmission charges by more than 40%. Why are electricity consumers being penalized for the very conservation practices that Connecticut policy encourages?
4. The Connecticut Legislature has mandated increasing purchases of unreliable, intermittent, and expensive electricity from “renewable” energy sources, such as wind and solar. SB-9, passed in 2018, mandates doubling the purchase of such energy from 2019 through 2030. Not only is this electricity available only part of the time (the sun doesn’t shine at night), it is far more expensive than electricity generated by natural gas or nuclear plants. For example, the so-called “day-ahead” wholesale price of electricity in May 2020 was 1.6 cents per kWh, but the wind-generated power purchased by Rhode Island in 2019 cost 9.8 cents per kWh, 6 times more expensive power! Not only that, but wind and solar require “backup” electric generation plants to provide power when the sun is not shining and the wind not blowing. Why isn’t the cost of this expensive policy dictated by politics explicitly disclosed on electric bills? The people of Connecticut have the right to know the cost of Connecticut’s renewable energy politics.
Let’s hold Eversource and its high-paid executives accountable. But let’s not overlook the role of Connecticut politicians in our needlessly expensive electricity costs. It’s time to hold the politicians to account too.
Former state Sen. Len Suzio is Republican candidate for the 13th Senate District.